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Saturday, September 20, 2014

' You are Cordially invited...'

I don't know about you but I have always felt excited at receiving an invitation. A sliver of thrill travels up my spine and miraculously  manages to find its  own convoluted route to my voice. People in the know ( my family)  tell me that my voice hovers between a quivering and a breathless tenor while accepting the invite. In the event of having to decline the said invite the voice teeters on the edge of melancholic anger, the anger directed at whoever is the cause for the 'sorry, we will not be able to make it' . The melancholy is of course, reserved for myself.

Wedding invitations elicit a mixed bag of response. If the card is accompanied by a box
of , well ,anything- mithai, chocolates, badam ki giri, even cardamom and mishri, true happiness is felt. Here, one is  slightly foggy about  the routine- is the  card  opened first to check out the who what when of the wedding or is it the box that gets preference. The sneaky suspicion is that it is the box. The red /yellow cellophene covering  is ceremoniously unwrapped  and the cover lifted. A sigh of  pure ecstacy is released if it is mithai. The bliss of taking a peek at the diamond shaped kaju ki katli, or, even better, at the moss green pishta burfi ,and the thrill of renunciation that one will not be eating the mithai is unmatched. Next in the pecking order come the chocolates. They work well  for the children and their friends and are packed off in the 'chocolates section ' of the refrigerator. The badams come a humble third because of their prosaicness and their association with  health benefits , though it is they that are actually consumed first. Cardamoms, well, I know the cost of ilaichi is no laughing matter but still...I do wish people would go in for mithai- for the reasons already mentioned above.

An unaccompanied card is looked at with slight misgivings and a tut of sympathy. It reinforces the argument of the school of thought which holds that 'One is a lonely number'. Misgivings because ,'what will the actual marriage be like ...' and sympathy as in, ' poor things...' The daughter invariably , and more so lately, professes herself to be in total and absolute agreement with the austerity drive. The husband, fence sitter till now, jumps to her side. Since political correctness is the order of the day and it is just so incorrect to declare oneself in love with mithai and bhaji dabbas that I , perforce, swallow both misgivings and sympathy and agree that it is so nice and in keeping with the times that people have stopped sending boxes. Family receives this in disbelieving silence but by then I am happily mulling the possibility, in silence of course, that may be the oversight will be remedied at the marriage itself.

However, what is truly upsetting is the latest trend of sending electronic and phone invites. You know the ones that urgently solicit your presence at  the bhoomi pujan of the ultra delux apartments coming up on Sohna Road or whichever road/expressway. What is upsetting is that there is no mention of breakfast/lunch/tea/dinner and whatsoever no mention of any laddoo ka dabba. All that is mentioned is that one will get a 10% discount on the booking amount if one is among the first five to give a down payment!

 What really took the cake the other day  was an invite in my mail. It stated that in the X institute  pursuit of excellence they, on the occasion of teacher's day, were cordially inviting me to be present to receive an award for my contribution to said excellence. You can imagine the swell of pride in this public affirmation of my excellence, till then visible to only a few.  Stat I ring up the husband, the son, the daughter and share with them the tidings. That the tidings are met with stunned silence I take no note of. Next on the to do list is a beautifully worded acceptance mail . In short it states that yes, I would be honored to receive the award from an institution of such impeccable and unimpeachable reputation. Here, I nudge away the inner voice which tells me that I have never heard of the thingy. Now  I have ,I inform the inner voice. The next day the institute reverts. They are absolutely delighted with my acceptance of their invitation. Would I like to pay the charges for attending  the event by credit card or would a demand draft work better?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ctrl alt delete

I look approvingly , first at the magazine handed to me, and then at  the 'magazine guy' . Twenty six days a month he supplies us with our fix of weeklies, fortnightlies and monthlies. I love all of them because there is something 'interesting' ( read gossipy) in all. Even the high brow weeklies bend low enough to give readers like me a last page with its 'what's hot and what's not' type of features. Though, mind you, I go about my reading in a very intelligent manner. So, when, after dinner is over,  the husband and I are catching up on news and other sundries like Modi, and Circle rates and inflation ,I make sure I have read enough to make intelligent sounds at the right places and sometimes enough to even  throw some light on why and how  A.K Antony only dozed his way through his 10 years of scurrilous defence deals and why the BJP M.P from Unnao should be told to keep his lips tightly shut.

Anyways, coming back to the magazine in my hand- it's one of my favorites.It has a horoscope page  , a short story section, a recipe page with immensely exotic looking dishes, a two page feature showing the bad hair days and enough worse dress days of celebrities , a travel section and then features like : how to clean up your wardrobe in 10 minutes flat, how to teach your children impeccable table manners, how to make the maid a part of the family, how to keep your plants fresh and watered when you are away holidaying in Honolulu....

I sit myself down with a pleasurable sigh and open the magazine. The horoscope is the first stop- it gives me  my feel good fix. Whoever writes it is obviously a kind contented soul as he/she  always writes kind things for all the 12 signs. Next is the recipe page - gluten free muffins with lime icing-  I promise myself that 'someday' I will churn out batches of the lovely looking muffins. Now is a longish stop at the bad hair and dress day of  our film industry celebrities. I look sympathetically at the actors. If they could see me they would know how much I , someone with a perpetual bad hair day and an, almost perpetual , bad dress day, empathized with them. How could Kareena have  known  that blood red lip color would make her look like a thirsty vampire lusting for,what else, blood?

I turn the page and find myself at  the first of the 'how to's'. This one seems interesting. It is: how to clean up your phone contact list. A quick glance gives one the gist- don't hang on to contacts who have vanished from your life. De clutter the contact list , and your life, by deleting obsolete contacts. I glance at the  phone lying next to me . Should I ? A voice  urges- 'yes ,do it -do something instead of  just reading the how to's month after month after month'. Goaded by the tinge of sarcasm in the voice I pick up the phone and scroll down my contact list.  Ajit - cousin from Saharanpur. Should certainly be deleted. We must have  last spoken   about 15 years back.I am on the verge of deleting but then stop. He is my  last contact  point with papa's hometown and family. Nah- I can't do it. I move on to the B's. Bikram - locksmith. I had taken his number the day he had been frantically summoned because the daughter, while playing 'I spy' with friends had hidden herself in her loo and the lock had played up. Yes, Bikram can go. The children were now all 'growed up' and knew how to close doors and open complicated locks. But, again I stop.I cannot do it. He is my camera to a tense and funny quintessential childhood moment.

I move on. Shanti ,the maid? Best to keep her number- might need it sometime. Neha- couldn't even remember when we had  last  hung out together. But we had some fun times together and for the sake of those good times... An hour later I am through. With the magazine that is. The phone is still next to me. All contacts intact.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Crunchy Spinach Chaat

For the past fortnight or so I had been consciously trying to stay away from making , and therefore eating, any fried stuff/junk food. However, the beautiful weather this evening weakened my resolve and the result was some finger licking spinach chaat.

If the weather is good your side of town too, why don't you try out the recipe?

For the spinach pakodas

  • Take about 15-20 large spinach leaves. It goes without saying that the leaves should be fresh, washed well and patted dry. Remove the stalks of the leaves.
For the batter
  •  In a mixing bowl put 1/4th cup corn flour
  • 1 cup besan ( gram flour)
  • red chilli powder and salt to taste
  • 1/4th teaspoon haldi( turmeric powder)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/4th teaspoon hing( asafoetida)
  • add water to make a smooth batter of medium consistency
Dip the leaves in the batter and deep fry in hot oil till golden brown. Remove onto a plate. Do not cover the pakodas/ bhajias.

To serve 

This chaat is best served in individual plates/flat bowls.
  • Arrange two bhajias on each plate.
  • Put fresh and beaten curd on top . ( To the  curd add black salt, red chilli powder, and roasted and crushed cumin seeds).
  • Now, arrange thin rounds of boiled potato slices . (This is optional).
  • Next up is  green coriander chutney.
  • On top of this put the sweet and sour imli ( tamarind) chutney.
  • Sprinkle sev on top.
  • Some chopped coriander leaves will  look nice.
  • Serve immediately.

Friday, September 12, 2014

What rocked and what shocked this week

What Rocked

There are no two opinions about this one- yes, the Jury is certainly not out on this. The award for 'What Rocked' most certainly goes to India's erstwhile Prime Minister, Dr ManMohan Singh. Do I hear a collective gasp out there? Well, let me put matters in the correct perspective.

 Consider this: we have all had, at some point or the other in our chequered/colorful lives, some skeleton tumbling out of the cupboard. Such  a skeleton leaves  us dented ( if  not painted), slightly bluish around the fins and with a haunted/hunted expression for at least  a few days.  It takes us a while to recover from the unexpected revelation of something we had presumed to be safely buried.

Now, here is our gentleman,who has a skeleton tumbling out almost every day of every week .  So, if Sanjay Baru  happened to the Accidental Prime Minister on a friday, Vinod Rai on a tuesday and  Kamal Nath on a Wednesday ,then Natwar Singh sprang out on a Monday. Anybody with less chutzpah would have called a press conference , told ALL ,and then gone studio hopping to clear his/her name. Not Dr Singh. He is displaying  the true mettle of a survivor and staying put and staying quiet. Nobody and nothing has made him open his mouth.

What Shocked

Used to as we were, for the last decade or so, of a lackadaisical central government approach to problems of a magnitudinal nature , Narendra Modi's hands on approach to salvage the situation in flood ravaged Jammu and Kashmir has certainly been a shocker. He understood , before even Omar Abdullah did, that Mr Abdullah would not be able to rise to the occasion and so took matters in his own hands.The  army was called in, core teams dispatched and mobilization of resources begun.
Bottom line: The buzzword is ACTION.
Now, don't you find that shocking?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Missing the Ex

I dreamt last night that I was back with the ex. Even on that rain drenched January morning, bustling about in a busy going about its business  house,I vividly remember the pleasure the dream gave me.The strangest part of the pleasure was that it was being felt  for all the reasons that had led to ex being dumped, viz reliability,comfort ,ease of functioning.... Any woman worth her salt will tell you that too many years spent with someone with the just mentioned qualities tend to get under one's skin. Ennui sets in  and one starts yearning for change.What does the said woman do in such a case? Dump,obviously.

Well, to cut a longish story short,I dumped. Cliches such as The only constant in life is change come in very handy as guilt suppressants and so,with a carefree mind, one made the transition  from then to now. And what a now!! Good looking would be an understatement of  the year . Add to the looks a certain rakishness - as in unpredictibility- alongwith moodiness and presto ! I had for myself a typical Georgette Heyer hero.

Life was smooth sailing for some time, as in the time that was spent in flaunting one's acquisition. One wallowed in the envious and covetous looks.But ,alas! to use another cliche-all that glitters is not gold, and the shine soon started wearing off. It is very difficult to continue being enamored of someone who just doesn't listen.So,when I touch the green , because that incoming call is important for me , nothing happens. Of course, one forgets all about the touching and one presses -hard. Result? The call gets cut! Wait. There is more.Here is the 9th call from the lady wanting to sell her chocolates and, after telling her very patiently eight times that I am not interested, I understandably do not want to take the call. So, I touch the red -and I get connected!

The other day I ventured into the ,till now ,unexplored territory of whatsapping.So,I compose this brilliantly witty message to a friend and press the sign for send . The message disappears. Not one to give up,I start the process again. The message is only half done when it mysteriously gets 'send'. The friend apparently spends all her time online and within a second I get,as a reply, a puzzled face. Red faced I furiously start punching a Sorry. I have only managed a sorr and hey, the recalcitrant phone seems to be having a mind of its own. It sends off the sorr but with two asteriks added so that my message looks like this: sorr**.

Nothing like this ever happened with the ex. It was silent when silence was needed , responded to the slightest of touch, had no hidden agenda; never displayed any moods, never embarrassed me by sending off asterik ridden messages...Oh my God- it was perfect. So what if it wasn't a smart phone- it was smart enough to know just what I wanted. And to think I gave it to the car cleaner as bakshish for finally giving the cars a wash!

Lesson learnt : that cliches are actually truisms run down by people who cannot bear the truth.
 The truth?
Old is Gold.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Terribly Tiny Tales

There is no doubt in my mind that we are living in  extremely creative times- creativity seems to be both  imploding and exploding . A case in point are the Terribly Tiny Tales ( ttt). A baby of the storytelling agency Not Like That in the summer of 2013, Terribly Tiny Tales publishes one tweet-sized tale, everyday.The  tale is posted every day on its Facebook page.

Sample some tales: